It will always remain one of the most riveting images in baseball I’ve ever witnessed. Before every Yankee game, Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano would warm up by playing catch. They’d start out about 75 feet apart. Then Jeter would take a step back. Then Soriano would take a step back. Then another. Then another. Then another. And Soriano wouldn’t stop until he reached the right field warning track and Jeter was in front of the home plate entrance of the Yankee dugout. And they threw peas! Right into the glove. Watching Soriano make those throws, I didn’t think there was anything he couldn’t do.
Alfonso Soriano was traded today. He’s going back to the New York Yankees. His Cub career was certainly a mixed bag. But it ended on one of his notorious “streaks”. And I’m glad he did. In fact, this past year and a half has been a blessing for Soriano and Soriano fans. This year saw the hard work, the passion, and the smile and joy that he brought to the ballpark EVERY. DAY. Regardless of win, loss, personal triumph or suckitude. Soriano was back at it the next day as if he was a rookie.
That wasn’t always the perception. Signed to a deal almost no one could live up to; expectations were set at an all time high. Sori was coming off a 40-40 season and even though that was never accomplished before that’s what expectations were. Injuries took his best asset- that being speed- right away. Soriano’s peaks came with cringe worthy valleys. And a couple of those valleys happened in October. And when you make the money Soriano makes, you can’t have those valleys happen in October with out some backlash.
And boy did it come. Every “hop”, every failed run out of the batter’s box, every missed curve, left a lot of Cub fans howling. But, unlike Jacques jones or LaTroy Hawkins, Soriano didn’t let the booing affect him. He didn’t let anything affect him. Even the fact that his knees were practically Cracker Jack. That might be the most lasting image I have of Sori as a Cub- running on bone-on-bone knees to get a ball hit down the left field line.
Alfonso Soriano’s career mirrored the manager he played under. Thrived under hall of famers Torre, Showalter, and Robinson. Played really well the first two years when Pinella was awake. Faded as Pinella did. Totally tuned out when Quade took over the reigns. And worked his butt off when Sveum (and most importantly Dave McKay, who worked with him everyday to make him a better outfielder.) took over in ‘12
In 2001, Alfonso Soriano was by far my favorite baseball player. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Probably would have won MVP if Giambi weren’t on his team splitting votes with him. We didn’t really get to see that Soriano. We saw an older one. A more injured one. One that matured, adapted, and learned to rely less on talent and more on effort. And that was cool to see to.
Thanks for the six and a half years Fonzie. I can’t think of a better way to see you put a nightcap on your career then going out before a game with Derek Jeter and playing catch. And taking a step back. Then another. Then another. And another….l